Monday, November 18, 2013

Stand Up and Be Counted

   A day or so ago, a friend posted on Facebook a tragic story about the execution in North Korea of  Christians along with others who had distributed any videos of South Korea.  Bibles in that country are considered pornography.  Anyone who possesses them is subject to prison or execution.
     Then, yesterday in the Sunday Tampa Tribune, I read an article about Coptic Christians in Egypt who no longer can celebrate a festival in Luxor that has been a large public event for a long time due to safety issues.  In that country, many churches have been burned, Christians kidnapped and held for ransom or murdered.  There is no safety as the country is in great turmoil.  These are only two examples of the persecution that occurs around the world.
     Thankfully, our country has not experienced such blatant discrimination, but we must not rest on our laurels.  Already, there are signs (actually for years now) of the slow erosion of Christ in the public arena here in our country.  Political correctness has ruled out prayer at graduations, football games or even mention of God in graduation speeches.  Communities have banned the display of the Nativity on public property, and here locally, a  town in our county almost prohibited any religious display by its merchants...that is until a large number of people arose to oppose this.  Then, the town backed down.  Yet, what is Christmas all about if not Jesus Christ and His birth?
     In our worship service yesterday, we sang a hymn I love entitled "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus written in 1858 by George Duffield.  There is a tragic story that accompanies this hymn.  An abolitionist and evangelist Dudley Atkins Tyng had just preached a wonderful message at a mission in Philadelphia.  Upon returning home, he visited a barn where his mule was working a machine that shelled corn.  He reached out to pat the mule and his sleeve became caught in the machine tearing off his arm.  Some time later his assistant George Duffield found him bleeding to death and Tyng's last words to him was a plea to tell the people to "stand up for Jesus" (This story is recounted in more detail in the book "Once More with Feeling:  A Classic Book of Hymns and Carols" by Rupert Christiansen and published by Short Books).
     Duffield wrote this hymn to commemorate the words this pastor had uttered and the first verse issues a challenge to us all:       Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
                                                 ye soldiers of the cross;
                                                 lift high his royal banner,
                                                 it must not suffer loss.
                                                 From victory unto victory
                                                 his army shall he lead,
                                                 till every foe is vanquished,
                                                 and Christ is Lord indeed.
Indeed, even our Lord issued this challenge to all who would follow Him in Matthew 10:32-33:  "So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."  Clearly Christ has made it known that we are to proclaim our faith verbally and by our actions.  We need to really think about this.
     While we may say we are a Christian, do we show it at the work place?  Do we live it in front of our family?  Words are cheap, and there are many out there who say they believe but James wrote
A Statue of John Knox in Stirling, Scotland.  Unafraid to stand
up for Jesus.
that even the demons in hell believe and tremble (James 2:19).  Unless we live out the faith we proclaim, we are not standing up for Jesus.  We deny Him when we fail to speak up as those citizens did as they fought a spurious ordinance that would have kept them from displaying their faith at Christmas.  We deny Him if we do not speak up in defense of life both the unborn and the aged.  We are called to be light and salt in this world that Christ may be glorified.  However here is the challenge.  We may not be welcomed by this world because the darkness (sinful men and women) do not like the light and salt stings the gaping wounds of immorality that run rampant in our society.  Therefore, we will experience persecution.  This should not come as a surprise to us for Jesus told us that in this world we will have trouble.  Nevertheless, He also reminded us that He has overcome this world (John 16:33).
      With all this in mind, the question remains.  Will we stand up for Jesus?  Will we oppose those who violate God's morality, His laws, and His holiness?  Or have we gone soft because we have not known the persecution of our brothers and sisters around the world that have no freedom to worship? Unless we stand up for Jesus, we may find our freedoms gone as well.  We must remember that this world is not our home.  We are citizens of heaven and our King is Jesus Christ.  Therefore, let us not waver in proclaiming His name and living out in our actions our faith in Him but lets be bold to stand up, stand up for Jesus!  Selah!

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